Hold on to a sense of purpose

Psychotherapist Viktor Frankl emerged from the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps to found a new dogma of existential analysis which he named logotherapy and explained in his seminal book. 


He survived two of the worst Nazi death camps, Auschwitz and Dachau, spending his time trying to establish what made a person survive.
The optimists, he found, would inexorably be worn down in their lived hell, while the pessimists would suffer the same fate — unable to make sense of the horror. The tragic optimists, though, would survive. These were people who believed that in spite of everything around them, all evidence to the contrary, life was worth living.
A tragic optimist is almost a counterpoint to the dramatic thinkers that we all seem to be.
The dramatic thinkers place themselves in the very groups that Frankl identified — the hopeless optimists and pessimists, neither of whom survive.
We want our leaders to be heroes, we want them to be perfect. The truth is, they are none of these; they’re human, tainted, vulnerable — some are even corrupt. Some might have weaponised theft into State Capture, others might steal a little, but create more value for the rest in the process.
The bottom line is that our leaders are just like us, but we refuse to accept their ordinariness. It’s abject proof of our lived level of despair that we create these icons and clutch to them — and then pin almost impossible expectations upon them, increasing our despair when they fail or are shown up.
It comes back to the old question famously asked by that great South African-grown captain of industry Norman Adami. Do we want a world of dreams or do we want to make reality our friend? When we refuse to accept the inherent humanity of our leaders and their associated imperfection, we dissuade ourselves from ever stepping up to the challenge of becoming leaders ourselves, because we are scared of being found out.
We need to accept our imperfections and overcome them, just like other leaders do. The best leaders, the great statesmen of the world, understand that leadership is a role that they take on to achieve the purpose at hand and are able to shed that mantle when the purpose is achieved and go back to being ordinary human beings once more.
They just allow themselves to take on the attributes of leadership while they need to. The best leaders are not just great characters, they have great character.
We can all become better, even great leaders; the first step is holding our leaders to account, which we don’t do. We should see our leaders as performance objects and treat them as such, rewarding them when they do perform and sanctioning them when they underperform, by replacing them if need be. We can only do this through a free and wholly transparent media, holding them to task without fear, favour, or agenda. But also by supporting and recognising good performance.
We also need to start preparing our leaders for the roles they take on, as they do in China. If you’re an aspirant politician, you start off by being entrusted with the running of a large village or a small town, by their standards — such as Welkom in the Free State. If you excel, you are given a bigger town to administer, such as Johannesburg.
It’s the same in corporate life, where it is humbling to see young managers taking on and running massive corporate projects. 
Through all of this, they are learning deep skills in management and administration and they’re being tested and forged, hearing from their stakeholders — whether voters or shareholders — all the time, learning accountability.
Leaders are no different from us; they’re just trained differently and they have a vastly different approach and understanding of scale which allows them to master large projects and deliver them.
We can be like them. There’s nothing stopping us — we just need to ditch the dramatic thinking, own our frailties and hold very tightly to our sense of purpose that makes everything worthwhile, and keeps us on track to achieve what we set out to do. And commit to relentless, never-ending learning. 
— DM

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